Monday, December 19, 2005

Trouble in paradise

Hop in a taxi in Bangkok and ask to go somewhere and you'll probably be laughed at. First of all thai is a tonal language and all attempts at mentioning the name of your destination to different pitches is enough to cause an international incident. Should you manage to actually make your intended destination clear the reply will usually be a No way man, are you crazy . The traffic is so bad that to get virtually anywhere will take at least an hour. Even down the road. Worse still that to avoid an unscheduled visit to the jewellers, tailors or massage parlour is virtually impossible. Sometimes the tuk tuk drivers don't even listen to your intended destination and just take you straight to the places where they get commission. The prize quote was when one tuk tuk driver offered the philosophy You like bangkok...then you like traffic jam man. The pollution here is absolutely shocking as well. We spent 70 minutes on a tuk tuk and both came down with sore throats and really bad headaches. Such a pity about the traffic here as it's such an interesting city. I especially like some of the food available below on khao san RoadIt's great to be back in Asia though. We are now in Thong nai Pan beach on the Island of Kho Pang Ghang and after all our travel recently it's great to stop and chill out. In the last month we have travelled in 6 countries with 27 hours on planes, 2 hours on trains and 83 hours on buses(not mentioning those bangkok taxi rides again). Yes the body is starting to take on the appearance of a seat. Lucky they have Thai massage here but unlucky that theres a typhoon heading in our general direction and that it's been overcast on all the Thai beaches in the last 3 days. Also unlucky is that half of essex, blackpool and hull have discovered Thailand. Theres nothing more common than a common pom is what Kate's mum says and must admit starting to believe her. At least we're nowhere near the tsunami coastline. So hopefully Xmas and new years eve here in our very relaxed bungalow will be a real treat. But after last night when we complained to the woman in the bungalow next door with her 2 year old baby knocking back beers and shouting her discusting mouth to quiet down her reply was What ...this is Koh fucken Phang gang... was tempted to tell her pink and purple streaks on a 45 year old is not a good look but refrained. Should be interesting... oh well paradise wouldn't be paradise without a war with the neighbours. Merry Xmas everyone!!!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

London Boozer

The urban myth that Australians fancy a drink was proved over the last few days but not near as much as a Londoner. Ever wonder why there is a pub on every corner in london? Because they're a nation of alcoholics silly. So our quick three days in london to visit friends was a quick three days in London to visit friends and drink more mulled wine, warm bitter and dodgy Australian lager than you could ever possibly imagine. And these kids do it all the time. Lunchtime at work, after work, in the pub round the corner from home, at home, not to mention fancy a nightcap luv down at the local. The end result of all this is that Kate and I are utterly shattered and have hangovers to bring down Westminster. Our hosts were Emma and Dan and their baby daughter Winston Churchill who was permananetly outraged at us being there and gave quite a few emotive speeches about the fact. Emma was actually the person responsible for introducing Kate and myself and she spent the entire three days telling every passerby who would listen. It was great to catch up with them and all the old pals from London including Matt on the Monday night who you may recognise as have acted alongside Christopher Walken in that Famous Italian flick I was once was a drunk teenage sailor. We had a great catch up at Gordons Wine Bar in Embankment which is quite a bit like the Bastille in Paris only so smoky that you have to throw out all your clothes afterwards. Our whirlwind London 3 day tour also included the Xmas lights of Regent street which have been monopolised from some dinosaurs from the Ice Age and also an insight into 22nd century retailing at the Apple Store. Yes for a nightclub come futuristic shopping experience like none other take a look if you're passing through. ( not for those not suffering from Attention Deficit Disorder I might add). Other than being dark by 3.30 pm, extremely crowded and fairly cold there is nothing else to add about old blighty. ( except it's still bloody expensive...our fare from the airport to Emma and Dan's and the cheapest available transport at that time of night cost 55 quid or 130 Australian dollars or 11,357 yen but whose counting)

Saturday, December 10, 2005

A Day in the life of the Djenna el Fna

A huge medievil square surrounded by a medina that has become the centre of Marrakech. The Djenna El Fna is the stuff of dreams or perhaps nightmares if the snake charmers trick you into having your photo taken with a cobra around your neck. The price of the photo will be one dollar plus another 5 if you want them to take the cobra of you. But no need to worry really as it's lips have been sewn togethor so it can't bite. (well one hopes anyway). It's a stage of every busker come street hustler imaginable, in the morning they float in, lay down their wares and start hustling for money, of course tourists are the number one target but this is also a square for locals no doubt about it. The daytime is the domain of the snake charmer, the henna ladies, the orange juice sellers, the street dentists, the bellydancers, the fortune tellers and the witchdoctors. Come mid afternoon and the square starts to liven up with an acrobat troupe from the North of Morocco, a storyteller as old as his stories and the tribal dancers. There are people singing, banging drums, hawking magical cures, juggling fire or simply asking for a spare dirham. As darkness sets and the Muezzin calls his faithful, the food stalls set up selling everything from Goats head soup to boiled snails to pigeon pastillas. Always there are the colourful water sellers, the tea stalls, and the nut stalls all shouting out to the passing tourist "what country you from," hey Kangaroo" Mr Fish and chips" " hola" "oregato". Any Moroccan who doesn't have at least 5 languages here really doesnt cut it. A man darts in front of you with a whispered hashish, an old lady pushes her granddaughter in front of you pleading for a spare dirham, and a cat manages to steal a chicken wing much to the dismay of the matriarch running the food stall. It really is a magical place and the action goes on well past midnight as the songs, stories, music continue before it slowly dies down and becomes the haunt of well groomed young men looking for some action. Everyone enjoys the square and it has become the centre of Marrakech life. Thank Allah that they didn't turn it into a car park in the 70's. The world would have been a much poorer place.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Marrakech Express

After 2 bus rides, a taxi, another bus ride, followed by another taxi, then another bus ride followed by a flight, then, a long wait in an airport then another flight followed by another taxi Kate and I found ourselves in Morocco, and what a pleasent surprise it is. Even the endlessly annoying touts have been a breath of fresh air after South America. The Moroccans really put the Spanish to shame. Their architecture, style and design really bring home the uncreativeness of the Spanish. Considering the Spanish had 300 years of Moorish influence there really is no excuse. In Morocco where there is beautiffuly carved wooden doors and wonderful ceramic tiles, in Latin America there is a plastic chair and the ubiquitous plaza de armas. It's the third time for me here and seems to be a lot more relaxed than other visits. Progressive new king Mohammed has done away with daddy's harem and introduced a whole host of reforms including the penalty of jail for any touts who harass tourists too much. The result is a comparitively peaceful walk through the Bazaar. We flew into Marrakech, and the centre piece of the city is the Djenna El Fna which is a huge square filled with every kind of busker possible. (with the exception thank god of any human statues). Snake charmers, storytellers, acrobats, musicians, monkey handlers, witchdoctors, dentists, tourists and the occasional woman. It all makes for a very noisy concoction of Moroccan mayhem. They also set up rows of delicious foodstalls with fried eggplant, kebabs, tajine and mint tea. After the Americas, the food here is to die for. After a couple of days in Marrakech, Fatima and I headed off to the Atlas mountains for a little camel safari and more. Firstly we headed out to Ouzzazarte ( pronounced wazzazarty) scene of some scenes from Gladiator, Lawrence of Arabia amongst othersMost of the buildings out here are made of mud brick in the shape of a Casbah which means fortress. Our group did inded Rock the Casbah and consisted of a couple of Italians, Singaporeans, Americans, and a CanadianThe highlight was camel riding in the sahara up near the Algerian border at a place called Merzouga. We slept in tents banged some drums and counted shooting stars whilst drinking berber whiskey (mint tea). Life isn' t too bad at the moment

After the tour we set off for Essaouira a laid back Morrocan ex hippy town on the coast. Jimi Hendrix wrote Castles in the sand here and one can hear the ubiquitous whisper of hashish upon strolling the narow alleyways. We've got ourselves a little apartment and are taking some R and R before our flight to London on Saturday, probably loaded up with way too many Morrocan handicrafts. Bring it on Mustapha